Santa, Undone by Travis Flatt

Photo of dandelion
Photo by Ed Stone on Unsplash

He taps on my door. You’ve got to hand it to a seven-year-old for knocking. That lesson he learned even before reading. “Please knock,” his mother would yell whenever he barged in on us in the act, and he’d step back out into the hall and tap a little drum beat on the door.

Today, I’m sprawled out on the bed with an IPA (just one), watching Robocop (the original), when the kid walks in and hands me a list. Before his mother left for work, she asked him to write Santa a list. I’m on disability since I busted my back, and I took a low dose of Oxy an hour ago. The kid’s brought me a long paragraph, written in pen. He’s clearly pleased with himself, and he struts out of the room.

As I read down the page, I see that my son had outsmarted Santa Claus. Or us, I guess?

If I leave every decision up to his mother, she gets annoyed, which I understand. I call the kid back in.

“Matt, Santa can only bring you toys that already exist.”

He looks up at me, calculating. Checkmate. “Why?”

Good question there son.

Okay, you see, his paragraph begins: “I want Rocket Spy for the PS5–” And on it goes to specify what this video game should entail. Honestly, it sounds pretty badass. Rocket Spy is an intellectual property invented by my son and his friend Clark—I know this because he describes it after school most days—in which international spies go on missions which involve blasting one another with—you guessed it—rockets. Again, as Rocket Spy doesn’t exist, I can’t hop onto the Playstation Network and download the game on Christmas morning.

The kid’s looking up at me with his eyebrow raised, and I know I should come out with it, but for some reason, I say, “Santa’s workshop is very busy.” I realize how stupid I sound, and I don’t want to upset the kid by going further with this nonsense.

Note: I’m aware that many parents don’t do Santa, but we didn’t see the harm when Matt was little. It was cute (we thought) and it stimulated the imagination (we thought) so what the hell?

Now this.

“Matt, you need to make a list of things Santa can buy at the store.” Now it seems I’m teaching a lesson about consumerism? Besides the whole “lying” argument that one often hears in opposition to Santa, which I never bought into—well, I’m now seeing a counterpoint to that and becoming confused.

There comes a flat look of disappointment on his face. “Okay.”

“Santa doesn’t exist.” I say artlessly and hope he doesn’t cry.

“I didn’t think so.” He says. I can’t tell if he’s lying or hiding embarrassment.

“But we’ll get you a game. If it’s . . . you know what you’re allowed to play. Cool?”

“Okay,” he says and leaves.

I hear him walk back to his room and crash through his Lego chest (damn those things are loud). I turn Robocop back on and sip my warm beer. After a minute, I turn the TV off and go down the hall. From the doorway, I say, “Why don’t you ask for more of those—” I refer to Legos “—sets. Video games rot your brain.” That’s blatantly hypocritical, as I play video games all the time. Well, maybe I have a point.

His fingers crunch through the Lego drawer, looking for some specific piece. He’s building an apartment complex for his mother, he, and I—all separate houses for reasons unknown. “Are you Santa?”

I laugh. “Your mom is. She does most the work.”

Photo of Santa walking from behind
Photo by LuAnn Hunt on Unsplash

Travis Flatt
Travis Flatt (he/him) is a teacher and actor living with his wife and son in Middle Tennessee. His writing appears in Bridge Eight, Drunk Monkeys, Roi Faineant, and other publications. Like every other author on the planet, he’s working on a novel. His Twitter is @WriterLeeFlatt, Instagram is tiflatt42, and Facebook author’s page is Travis Flatt, author.

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